Learning the Office: Hymns, chapters, versicles, responsories

This post reviews the rubrics for some key parts of the Office that are common to several of the hours.

All of these parts of the Office are properly said while standing.

The hymn


The hymn uses the same text each day at Prime (Iam Lucis), Terce (Nunc Sancte), Sext (Rector Potens), None (Rerum Deus) and Compline (Te Lucis).

At Lauds and Vespers (and Matins), the text (and chant tone) can vary according to the day of the week, season, feast or day.  

The last verse (doxology) is sung while bowing (medium).

The chant for the hymns can be found either in the Antiphonale Monasticum (which can be downloaded from CC Watershed or you can use the more recent versions of the chant provided in the Liber Hymnarius published by Solesmes.  Note however that the versions of the hymns used in the Antiphonale (and most traditional monasteries) differ from those used in the Roman Office in both text and chant tones.

Useful resources for learning the chant versions of the hymns (but check that they are the correct ones in the Antiphonale) include:


The versicle


The versicle is a short statement and response.

In the Diurnal it is usually just marked V: and R:

You can find an example in the psalter section of the Diurnal on page 55, where the versicle for Sundays during the year is Dominus regnavit....Induit Dominus...During Eastertide, an alleluia is added to each line.

The versicle is always the same at Prime and Compline, but can vary depending on the day of the week, season, feast or day at the other hours.

At Lauds and Vespers a more elaborate chant tone is generally used.

Chapter (Capitulum) 


The chapter is really just a short Scriptural readings used at each Hour.

It is always rounded off with a 'Deo Gratias' (Thanks Be to God) - have a look for example at the chapter for Prime  on page 7 (of the Psalter).

The chapter is always the same at Prime and Compline, but can vary depending on the day of the week, season, feast or day at the other hours.

(Brief) responsory 


The responsory occurs at Lauds and Vespers. It is often labelled Short R or brief, because it stands in contrast to the 'Prolix' version that can be sung at first vespers of major feasts. You can find an example of the standard format for this on page 52, for Sunday Lauds, and it is important to spend a little while familiarising yourself with the structure because the Diurnal abbreviates these mostly, and you have to remember how to say it. And I'm afraid its one of those cases where it makes a lot more sense when you are singing it with someone leading and the rest responding!

So take a look at the example. The first line goes:Inclina cor meum, Deus, * In testimonia tua.

The whole line is then repeated. Let's call the first half of the line (Inclina..) x, and the second half after the asterix (In testimonia) y.

So the structure so far is:
x*y
x*y

Then the verse (and let's call this bit z) goes:
Averte oculos meos, ne videant vanitatem: in via tua vivifica me.
Then the second half of the first line is added on. So the structure so far is now:
x*y
x*y
z*y

Then a short doxology is added:
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.
Then the whole of the first line (Inclina cor meum...In testimonia..) is repeated again.

So the structure of the whole responsory is:

x*y
x*y
z*y
Gloria...
x*y

You can check your understanding by looking at the text for Lauds for Christmas in the Diurnal (MD 72*) (Verbum caro) and listening to the recording below.



1 comment:

Marco da Vinha said...

Any idea on the origins of the Brief Response? It's structure is quite puzzling to me, to be honest.